Encouraging Participation in Yacht Racing
Published on October 16th, 2017
The annual IRC Congress meeting was held October 7, 2017 in St Malo on the northern French coast. Forty delegates from as far afield as Japan and the USA came together to talk about the International Rating Certificate (IRC) racing around the world, technical development, and ideas on encouraging participation in yacht racing generally.
While the 2018 calendar will include the IRC European Championship combined with the RORC’s Commodores’ Cup in Cowes in June, closely followed by the joint IRC and ORC Hague Offshore World Championship in the Netherlands in July, along with the major offshore classic races that continue to be scored using IRC, discussions at the IRC Congress also looked at the core of the IRC fleet who are taking part in club racing around the world every week.
Much talk at the Congress was how to further encourage involvement, to which everyone agreed that exciting events drive participation. This is demonstrated by the record four minutes for the Rolex Fastnet Race entry to be fully subscribed and the large number of boats that entered the Offshore Worlds straight after registration opened. Clubs were encouraged to put on events that provide an escape from the stresses of modern life, with a variety of courses, and some longer races with interesting destinations.
Additional factors impacted participation in North America. In Canada, 2017 was a very difficult year for the main IRC fleet in Toronto due to extensive flooding that lasted until August, preventing boats being launched. In the USA, US Sailing supports a free market with rating rules (IRC, ORR and ORC) and does not promote one over the other. However, this does not work well and fosters a fiercely competitive culture between rating rules. Racing in the US is suffering and some events are disappearing altogether.
With regard to the rule, the IRC Technical Committee has been working on technical developments including the rating of boats equipped with foils, and a longer term review on rating ‘code zero’ sails. IRC has always been fast to embrace new developments in yacht design, while as far as possible retaining the characteristic simplicity of the IRC Rule and avoiding too much complexity for the majority of owners.
Comment: I concur that event format is the main driver for participation. A multiple day regatta with long hours of only windward-leewards will attract the tip of the participation pyramid, whereas a more casual schedule and/or diverse course selection will entice the broader base. Bottom line is that one format may not accommodate all boats and sailors, so it is important to have a variety of event types and to market them appropriately. – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt